LETTERS TO TANCRED QUAIL

LETTERS TO TANCRED QUAIL

I find I have the energy to maintain but one correspondence.


IT IS WITH TANCRED QUAIL, MY LITERARY ACCOMPLICE.

Unhinged man-of-letters, explorer-aristocrat-dandy, eater of roasted peacock

—the 97-year-old Quail and I exchange about one immoderate letter a week.

Against Tancred's discretionary wishes, you have here opened our mail,

& may read what roguish mischief is contained therein.

I find I have the energy to maintain but one correspondence.

IT IS WITH TANCRED QUAIL,
MY LITERARY ACCOMPLICE.

Unhinged man-of-letters, explorer-aristocrat-dandy, eater of roasted peacock—the 97-year-old Quail and I exchange about one immoderate letter a week.

Against Tancred's discretionary wishes, you have here opened our mail,

& may read what roguish mischief is contained therein.

Melbourne, December 22, 2018.


Dear Tancred,

I sit upon my balcony, surrounded by an ugliness of potted succulents and the smell of possum piss, immensely grateful that our correspondence has recommenced.

You are in your very old age an anchor to my dolphin. The fact that your biro puts me only once removed from Evelyn’s fountain pen gives to my fury a legitimacy without which it could not with confidence express itself. How go things at Outremer and on Frognal Lane? When last we spoke you farewelled me to Budapest with a letter of introduction to the Baron Ferenc of Esterhazy. I called upon him and found his moustache intolerable and his fait preposterous. I’ve told you about 21st-century aristocrats. Affectations a bore and spending precludes.

You might be happy to know that after 2 years of interruptions I a week from now shall start the writing of the next novel—the India story about which you have been so helpful. I languish until then in the identical states of doubt and certainty that always seems to precede my undertakings. Certainty that the story is hilarious, certainty that it needs to be written, certainty that it sits in worthy succession to its pre-war grandfathers. Certainty too — which is its doubt — that it shall be read by too few and understood by fewer and enjoyed by fewer still.

It will be recorded on New Years Eve as the chief disappointment of my year that my play was read by not more people than was EH upon its debut. The funnier work and by far the more splendid, and yet copies of it sit on my bookshelf unsigned and homeless. I staked my year upon the intelligence of the reader. I was naïve. Next year I shall write a book on how to make miracles out of dunghills and tofu out of wishes and about how to write in order to make one feel alive and I shall be instantly a millionaire. The order of the world is inverted.

Nevertheless, I would write India if it were only to be read by you and me, so the notes go on amassing — the first and last parts with ease, being, respectively the life of a starving artist and the inevitable demise of a new relationship — subjects to me overfamiliar. But the middle! Bali. Idiocy. I say ‘amassing’ and not growing, for there’s too much material and not enough space in that little retard pocket that people call Ubud for all of it to be given show.

I’m having to whittle much and exclude more, and every new idiot-website I find gives me fodder that I simply could not make up in volumes I cannot contain. What, do you suppose, is an inspirationalist? What, a gratitude facilitator; a branding alchemist; a breathwork healer; a word shaman; a cacao priestess? And how on Firbank’s earth could one person claim to be all these things at once? There’s so much bullshit being proffered and consumed that I must choose for the book not that which most infuriates or despairs, but that which best suits the story — what this jaunting young painter (I’ve called him Godfrey, isn’t that a good name?) would most likely have to endure in order to get from this pelf-saturated microcosm the paltry amount needed to do go on doing his work as an artist.

And then there is the main character. Were you talking to me then, when I knew her, or were you pissy at my decision to leave London and ignoring my letters still? You can’t have ignored the midgetgram I sent — I know how they amuse you so. But you know I consider London a Nibelheim when it is not summer.

I know her surname — it is Wishart, she being obsessed with “creating”, though not even she knows what, and always calling herself a Renaissance Woman though she couldn’t tell a Bellini from a Giorgione. But — and your input would be invaluable — should her first name be Alexandra or should it be Indiana? The latter fits the story, she feeling destined by name to stalk Godfrey to India — nomen est omen and what-have-you. But Alexandra Wishart sounds so much more pretentious and would allow her to obliviously lay claim to a poetic metre (she’s of course a lifecoach and a priestess and a yoga instructor and a photographer and a bitcoin investor and a wanderluster and a poet) a poetic metre all of her own — the Alexandrine. I’ve been composing them for fun while I work on the story. Would you like to read one? They run like this:

“Desire is a question — my heartbeats are the answer.”

These things do tend to sort themselves out in the writing though. Perhaps by the time of my next letter she shall be called Hortensia or Yak or something.

I do wonder if the person upon whom she’s based will ever read this book. I expect so, but will she be mad? I doubt it, as she thinks herself the joyful nexus of the universe and so is ever the more the likely to think it a flattering portrait, a playful homage, a very long love-letter — rather than a permanent and very sincere ridiculing.

Enough though with the literary blibber-blabber.

S. and I are very happily settled into our shoebox. Longer than it is wide, she’s claimed the bedroom as her office and I the kitchen. This leads to countless interminglings of our daily activities, with the refrigerator being our water-cooler. And though it is almost devoid of nutrition — both of us very stubbornly artists — we’re getting very good at imagining cheese upon its shelves. The other day she set a bag of peaches on fire while I was at my toilet, which I happen to think an accomplishment, I’d never smelt a burnt peach before — and a smoke alarm startles one from crapping like you would not believe. We’re in Windsor, a very nice-sounding place but a very docile one, and just a little too far from the very few things that make this city civilized. The only appurtenances which abound are overpriced breakfasts. What will these Australians pay for a cooked egg? And S. alerted me to the existence of athleisure-wear — ‘ve you heard of it? These nincompoops come to breakfast as though they’ve descended Kenchenjunga for a latte, and with fake tan brushed across their faces like blood over a Pesach door their aim is to appear as though one is physically active without consequence, when in fact their longest walk for the week has been — no, I almost got mean. And nobody spells milk with an i anymore, as it’s apparently more likely to come from a nut than a cow. “Mylk.”

I shall one day when I can afford it purchase a heifer and bring it to a café just to suck its teat in protest. Then I’ll slit its throat and there and then feast upon its barbecued ribs and fling habanero sauce onto their athleisure wear. Just to irk the ydyots slightly. Do you remember Hoa Binh in 2012 when we were invited to kill that piglet and feasted so? They would be disconnected from meat but not vanity. It is illogical.

I leave this letter here as I know you have studies to conduct and influential people to persuade.

May summer come soon to us both and Japan follow hastily thereon.


Yours affectionately,

and with champagne memories still,


    J.H.

Melbourne, December 22, 2018.


Dear Tancred,

I sit upon my balcony, surrounded by an ugliness of potted succulents and the smell of possum piss, immensely grateful that our correspondence has recommenced.

You are in your very old age an anchor to my dolphin. The fact that your biro puts me only once removed from Evelyn’s fountain pen gives to my fury a legitimacy without which it could not with confidence express itself. How go things at Outremer and on Frognal Lane? When last we spoke you farewelled me to Budapest with a letter of introduction to the Baron Ferenc of Esterhazy. I called upon him and found his moustache intolerable and his fait preposterous. I’ve told you about 21st-century aristocrats. Affectations a bore and spending precludes.

You might be happy to know that after 2 years of interruptions I a week from now shall start the writing of the next novel—the India story about which you have been so helpful. I languish until then in the identical states of doubt and certainty that always seems to precede my undertakings. Certainty that the story is hilarious, certainty that it needs to be written, certainty that it sits in worthy succession to its pre-war grandfathers. Certainty too — which is its doubt — that it shall be read by too few and understood by fewer and enjoyed by fewer still.

It will be recorded on New Years Eve as the chief disappointment of my year that my play was read by not more people than was EH upon its debut. The funnier work and by far the more splendid, and yet copies of it sit on my bookshelf unsigned and homeless. I staked my year upon the intelligence of the reader. I was naïve. Next year I shall write a book on how to make miracles out of dunghills and tofu out of wishes and about how to write in order to make one feel alive and I shall be instantly a millionaire. The order of the world is inverted.

Nevertheless, I would write India if it were only to be read by you and me, so the notes go on amassing — the first and last parts with ease, being, respectively the life of a starving artist and the inevitable demise of a new relationship — subjects to me overfamiliar. But the middle! Bali. Idiocy. I say ‘amassing’ and not growing, for there’s too much material and not enough space in that little retard pocket that people call Ubud for all of it to be given show.

I’m having to whittle much and exclude more, and every new idiot-website I find gives me fodder that I simply could not make up in volumes I cannot contain. What, do you suppose, is an inspirationalist? What, a gratitude facilitator; a branding alchemist; a breathwork healer; a word shaman; a cacao priestess? And how on Firbank’s earth could one person claim to be all these things at once? There’s so much bullshit being proffered and consumed that I must choose for the book not that which most infuriates or despairs, but that which best suits the story — what this jaunting young painter (I’ve called him Godfrey, isn’t that a good name?) would most likely have to endure in order to get from this pelf-saturated microcosm the paltry amount needed to do go on doing his work as an artist.

And then there is the main character. Were you talking to me then, when I knew her, or were you pissy at my decision to leave London and ignoring my letters still? You can’t have ignored the midgetgram I sent — I know how they amuse you so. But you know I consider London a Nibelheim when it is not summer.

I know her surname — it is Wishart, she being obsessed with “creating”, though not even she knows what, and always calling herself a Renaissance Woman though she couldn’t tell a Bellini from a Giorgione. But — and your input would be invaluable — should her first name be Alexandra or should it be Indiana? The latter fits the story, she feeling destined by name to stalk Godfrey to India — nomen est omen and what-have-you. But Alexandra Wishart sounds so much more pretentious and would allow her to obliviously lay claim to a poetic metre (she’s of course a lifecoach and a priestess and a yoga instructor and a photographer and a bitcoin investor and a wanderluster and a poet) a poetic metre all of her own — the Alexandrine. I’ve been composing them for fun while I work on the story. Would you like to read one? They run like this:

“Desire is a question — my heartbeats are the answer.”

These things do tend to sort themselves out in the writing though. Perhaps by the time of my next letter she shall be called Hortensia or Yak or something.

I do wonder if the person upon whom she’s based will ever read this book. I expect so, but will she be mad? I doubt it, as she thinks herself the joyful nexus of the universe and so is ever the more the likely to think it a flattering portrait, a playful homage, a very long love-letter — rather than a permanent and very sincere ridiculing.

Enough though with the literary blibber-blabber.

S. and I are very happily settled into our shoebox. Longer than it is wide, she’s claimed the bedroom as her office and I the kitchen. This leads to countless interminglings of our daily activities, with the refrigerator being our water-cooler. And though it is almost devoid of nutrition — both of us very stubbornly artists — we’re getting very good at imagining cheese upon its shelves. The other day she set a bag of peaches on fire while I was at my toilet, which I happen to think an accomplishment, I’d never smelt a burnt peach before — and a smoke alarm startles one from crapping like you would not believe. We’re in Windsor, a very nice-sounding place but a very docile one, and just a little too far from the very few things that make this city civilized. The only appurtenances which abound are overpriced breakfasts. What will these Australians pay for a cooked egg? And S. alerted me to the existence of athleisure-wear — ‘ve you heard of it? These nincompoops come to breakfast as though they’ve descended Kenchenjunga for a latte, and with fake tan brushed across their faces like blood over a Pesach door their aim is to appear as though one is physically active without consequence, when in fact their longest walk for the week has been — no, I almost got mean. And nobody spells milk with an i anymore, as it’s apparently more likely to come from a nut than a cow. “Mylk.”

I shall one day when I can afford it purchase a heifer and bring it to a café just to suck its teat in protest. Then I’ll slit its throat and there and then feast upon its barbecued ribs and fling habanero sauce onto their athleisure wear. Just to irk the ydyots slightly. Do you remember Hoa Binh in 2012 when we were invited to kill that piglet and feasted so? They would be disconnected from meat but not vanity. It is illogical.

I leave this letter here as I know you have studies to conduct and influential people to persuade.

May summer come soon to us both and Japan follow hastily thereon.


Yours affectionately,

and with champagne memories still,


    J.H.

Outremer, December 29, 2018.


Dear Humphreys,

I too am undisappointed that our conversation has resumed as I’ve told you you’re the youngest person I know that I do not entirely hate and your continued gripes with the world remind me of what it was like to care.

You have said publicly that our correspondence is to be unbridled. I do wish you would bridle things a little more on your end. I‘ve little wish to hear musings about the nature of creativity — which you so pretend to deride — nor the shortcomings of the world. The world has ever come short, and as you know it’s my opinion that we may no longer call it one. A world I mean. You were born in 1985, I in 1921. You cannot know, no matter how much you read, what God’s earth was like before Hitler’s war, nor before American hegemony, nor the appearance of AIDS nor the influx of Mohammedans. Stop pretending to this sort of Before-The-Fall wistfulness. You are of the Fall, by the Fall, for the Fall. Enjoy it. You have no constraints but those of money. Go and steal something. You say expensive breakfasts abound. Yet I chance a guess that you have paid for one since your last letter. How bland you are — you mock, and consume, and deride and serve. As a Hungarian communist, grumbling yet conforming, that your factory job mayn’t be taken from you.

Do you like to be personally admonished? I do, very much. It’s what-fun to be reminded that one is falling short of one’s ideal, who we both know in your case is me. I once aspired to be a Ruskin but found that watching sunsets made me nauseous so instead decided to be  myself. And I suppose you’re still smoking that pipe? A dreadful habit which the men of my generation affected at university but which was dropped when soon one could afford cigars. Does this mean that still you cannot afford cigars? At your age you should be ashamed. By 33 I’d met two emperors and three queens, owned estates in two counties, and was feared in most of Burma. I’ve seen your suitcase. If that’s all you own then you had best move on to seeking infamy. The rewards are larger and much quicker in coming.

Speaking of quick in coming, I’m very glad to hear you’re living with a woman. I tried it once, for a decade or so, and my only advice is always flush twice. Is S. pretty? You told me she’s Dutch, which is no guarantee of beauty for most of them look like good mustard. But I hope for your sake she is as there is nothing quite so interesting as a pretty girl.

I see what you’ve done with your main character’s name. Do be careful not to name him too close to your own as people will confuse your gripes with his, especially if his are as hypocritical as yours.

I assume you have a casual acquaintance with your, and my — and his — longest forebears. Humphreys, thou peaceful bear, and I of well-thought advice and now Godfrey who’s God’s peace. Normans all. Those great Aenean peoples — turning up in France and saying, Here’s my new home and I am your new king and if you don’t like it fuck off as here’s my sword. Then doing the same in Sicily, in Israel, and wherever else. Reresby always claimed descent from the Hautevilles, and there was a Humphrey d’Hauteville so perhaps your appropriation of my descent may not be all too far from the truth. I do feel more related to you than I do to my own grandchildren and to most of this country now.

Regarding your consternation about Forest Virgin, I have said a hundred times — you must enter the real world. You complain so about the reception of the digital but then are surprised that they wish not to read a work in what is functionally an extinct language. Let not your intelligence fall prey to vanity. But then again you complain as I suppose I do too about the real world too — so perhaps you’re a lost cause. Or rather it is. As I’ve said, write a self-help book, make your money, get out. You write for money, do you not? Well then write what will make money and shut up about it.


Yours with but a few yawns,

   

 T.Q.

Outremer, December 29, 2018.


Dear Humphreys,

I too am undisappointed that our conversation has resumed as I’ve told you you’re the youngest person I know that I do not entirely hate and your continued gripes with the world remind me of what it was like to care.

You have said publicly that our correspondence is to be unbridled. I do wish you would bridle things a little more on your end. I‘ve little wish to hear musings about the nature of creativity — which you so pretend to deride — nor the shortcomings of the world. The world has ever come short, and as you know it’s my opinion that we may no longer call it one. A world I mean. You were born in 1985, I in 1921. You cannot know, no matter how much you read, what God’s earth was like before Hitler’s war, nor before American hegemony, nor the appearance of AIDS nor the influx of Mohammedans. Stop pretending to this sort of Before-The-Fall wistfulness. You are of the Fall, by the Fall, for the Fall. Enjoy it. You have no constraints but those of money. Go and steal something. You say expensive breakfasts abound. Yet I chance a guess that you have paid for one since your last letter. How bland you are — you mock, and consume, and deride and serve. As a Hungarian communist, grumbling yet conforming, that your factory job mayn’t be taken from you.

Do you like to be personally admonished? I do, very much. It’s what-fun to be reminded that one is falling short of one’s ideal, who we both know in your case is me. I once aspired to be a Ruskin but found that watching sunsets made me nauseous so instead decided to be  myself. And I suppose you’re still smoking that pipe? A dreadful habit which the men of my generation affected at university but which was dropped when soon one could afford cigars. Does this mean that still you cannot afford cigars? At your age you should be ashamed. By 33 I’d met two emperors and three queens, owned estates in two counties, and was feared in most of Burma. I’ve seen your suitcase. If that’s all you own then you had best move on to seeking infamy. The rewards are larger and much quicker in coming.

Speaking of quick in coming, I’m very glad to hear you’re living with a woman. I tried it once, for a decade or so, and my only advice is always flush twice. Is S. pretty? You told me she’s Dutch, which is no guarantee of beauty for most of them look like good mustard. But I hope for your sake she is as there is nothing quite so interesting as a pretty girl.

I see what you’ve done with your main character’s name. Do be careful not to name him too close to your own as people will confuse your gripes with his, especially if his are as hypocritical as yours.

I assume you have a casual acquaintance with your, and my — and his — longest forebears. Humphreys, thou peaceful bear, and I of well-thought advice and now Godfrey who’s God’s peace. Normans all. Those great Aenean peoples — turning up in France and saying, Here’s my new home and I am your new king and if you don’t like it fuck off as here’s my sword. Then doing the same in Sicily, in Israel, and wherever else. Reresby always claimed descent from the Hautevilles, and there was a Humphrey d’Hauteville so perhaps your appropriation of my descent may not be all too far from the truth. I do feel more related to you than I do to my own grandchildren and to most of this country now.

Regarding your consternation about Forest Virgin, I have said a hundred times — you must enter the real world. You complain so about the reception of the digital but then are surprised that they wish not to read a work in what is functionally an extinct language. Let not your intelligence fall prey to vanity. But then again you complain as I suppose I do too about the real world too — so perhaps you’re a lost cause. Or rather it is. As I’ve said, write a self-help book, make your money, get out. You write for money, do you not? Well then write what will make money and shut up about it.


Yours with but a few yawns,

   

 T.Q.

Melbourne, January 6th, 2018.


Dear Tancred the Tank Engine,

It is begun. My new book is 8000 words old and better than anything I’ve written, especially in first draft. Those two words which I have held as gospel from day one have never been more manifest in anything I’ve written, except in Forest Virgin. But to feel that in prose!

And she isn’t called Hortensia or Yak, but is Alexandra Wishart after all and tomorrow Godfrey Lackland meets her. The book is nothing yet. Not British, not American. Certainly not Australian. And not mine. But 8000 words in, it is an accurate portrait I think of any artist working today who works in the vein of his forebears and ignores the intermission in sense that was the 20th century.

8000 is not enough after seven days of work (six if you discount a Friday spent so hungover I couldn’t whistle) but I am inventing much more than I ever have in a first draft and am attempting to write nothing as I have written it before. The answer of how to interestingly describe a young man crossing his apartment to exit its door is of course — you don’t describe it. It is one of the chief faults of modern writers that they feel they have to describe everything. In a world as uniform as this (you don’t like it when I refer to is as a word, so I shall continue to do so, as it is the only one I’ve known) almost nothing has to be described except those uniquenesses of character which so set these fictions apart that they are in fact characters. Most people wouldn’t make an interesting character in a book. Do you agree? Certainly I wouldn’t, so no matter what I name my main character I cannot reasonably be accused of inserting myself therein as my life is not interesting enough. I found something by Auden that said pleasure is not an infallible guide, but it is the least infallible guide. Do many authors now aim to please? Pleasure. I doubt most of them know what it means. I doubt many of them have been on a motorbike and felt freedom and tried normal life and found it so viscerally unnatural that they’ve turned whole lives upside down, (I wouldn’t say destroyed because it would make me feel bad) in order to ever endure it again. Most authors I think strive for instruction in one way or another. It is Communist tendency, Socialist Realism etc. But to amuse and to please — to what more could an artist aspire?

But then again I haven’t read a word written since Evelyn’s death. The modern author is my nemesis, though I know not what she writes. A phantom, invented as antithesis so as to keep to my pompous, pleasure-giving line.

So it has been seven days and I have not left the house except to forage for food. Unpleasant. Certainly not interesting. Is the life of a real writer a life at all?

Godfrey is of course in Bangkok, which I know you knew in the forties and fifties. You had an audience with Bhumibol did you not? Played the cornet with him? Or is that another of my imaginationings? He is there because he idealistically (read dumbly) went in search of a rare pigment made from the jade peafowl’s glistening green neck. He’d read about it in a travel book by Maugham or somesuch, and when he arrived discovered that no such thing had existed for over a century. But there he’s now stuck, having laid down 6 months’ deposit to get a miniscule apartment with decent, inspiring, views.

Its open is making me miss that city terribly, and the excitement of for the first time living as freely as one could hope, which to me means bending one’s whole life towards work. And all those sunsets and the energy of that royal river and the flavours and the colours. No country is quite so colourful, have you found? But if Godfrey were me I would place him in Vietnam and put him on a bike and never have him leave, not for money, not for love, and not for adventure —- for little can be had that cannot be found there.

Happy New Year to you and to whoever you’re living with.

I do hope your letter the next shall contain more of what you’re up to. I know you’re as old as arsenic but I also know that you’re also much more prominent than I and are still entertaining. When was the last time you served roasted peacock? How never I shall forget their faces when you had it served to that dreadful family you had in the upper rooms when I was there after India. Speaking of which…

I last week destroyed and then accidentally discarded the memory card — do you know what a memory card is, y’old bastard? — that contained all my India photos and videos — the entire 27 days of research for the last third of the novel.

I don’t mind losing the photos so much, as the country is as picturesque as a zombie slum. But it means that to complete the novel I shall have to return thither. Would you like to join? S. expressed interest but I consider it a chivalrous duty to keep any decent woman from setting foot in that place and would much prefer to have her in Japan for a time.

Almost worded out now, as I took all of Godfrey’s money from him this morning and wrote till I was blue in the fingertips.

So until next time,


Unadmonishedly smiling,


Josh.

Melbourne, January 6th, 2018.


Dear Tancred the Tank Engine,

It is begun. My new book is 8000 words old and better than anything I’ve written, especially in first draft. Those two words which I have held as gospel from day one have never been more manifest in anything I’ve written, except in Forest Virgin. But to feel that in prose!

And she isn’t called Hortensia or Yak, but is Alexandra Wishart after all and tomorrow Godfrey Lackland meets her. The book is nothing yet. Not British, not American. Certainly not Australian. And not mine. But 8000 words in, it is an accurate portrait I think of any artist working today who works in the vein of his forebears and ignores the intermission in sense that was the 20th century.

8000 is not enough after seven days of work (six if you discount a Friday spent so hungover I couldn’t whistle) but I am inventing much more than I ever have in a first draft and am attempting to write nothing as I have written it before. The answer of how to interestingly describe a young man crossing his apartment to exit its door is of course — you don’t describe it. It is one of the chief faults of modern writers that they feel they have to describe everything. In a world as uniform as this (you don’t like it when I refer to is as a word, so I shall continue to do so, as it is the only one I’ve known) almost nothing has to be described except those uniquenesses of character which so set these fictions apart that they are in fact characters. Most people wouldn’t make an interesting character in a book. Do you agree? Certainly I wouldn’t, so no matter what I name my main character I cannot reasonably be accused of inserting myself therein as my life is not interesting enough. I found something by Auden that said pleasure is not an infallible guide, but it is the least infallible guide. Do many authors now aim to please? Pleasure. I doubt most of them know what it means. I doubt many of them have been on a motorbike and felt freedom and tried normal life and found it so viscerally unnatural that they’ve turned whole lives upside down, (I wouldn’t say destroyed because it would make me feel bad) in order to ever endure it again. Most authors I think strive for instruction in one way or another. It is Communist tendency, Socialist Realism etc. But to amuse and to please — to what more could an artist aspire?

But then again I haven’t read a word written since Evelyn’s death. The modern author is my nemesis, though I know not what she writes. A phantom, invented as antithesis so as to keep to my pompous, pleasure-giving line.

So it has been seven days and I have not left the house except to forage for food. Unpleasant. Certainly not interesting. Is the life of a real writer a life at all?

Godfrey is of course in Bangkok, which I know you knew in the forties and fifties. You had an audience with Bhumibol did you not? Played the cornet with him? Or is that another of my imaginationings? He is there because he idealistically (read dumbly) went in search of a rare pigment made from the jade peafowl’s glistening green neck. He’d read about it in a travel book by Maugham or somesuch, and when he arrived discovered that no such thing had existed for over a century. But there he’s now stuck, having laid down 6 months’ deposit to get a miniscule apartment with decent, inspiring, views.

Its open is making me miss that city terribly, and the excitement of for the first time living as freely as one could hope, which to me means bending one’s whole life towards work. And all those sunsets and the energy of that royal river and the flavours and the colours. No country is quite so colourful, have you found? But if Godfrey were me I would place him in Vietnam and put him on a bike and never have him leave, not for money, not for love, and not for adventure —- for little can be had that cannot be found there.

Happy New Year to you and to whoever you’re living with.

I do hope your letter the next shall contain more of what you’re up to. I know you’re as old as arsenic but I also know that you’re also much more prominent than I and are still entertaining. When was the last time you served roasted peacock? How never I shall forget their faces when you had it served to that dreadful family you had in the upper rooms when I was there after India. Speaking of which…

I last week destroyed and then accidentally discarded the memory card — do you know what a memory card is, y’old bastard? — that contained all my India photos and videos — the entire 27 days of research for the last third of the novel.

I don’t mind losing the photos so much, as the country is as picturesque as a zombie slum. But it means that to complete the novel I shall have to return thither. Would you like to join? S. expressed interest but I consider it a chivalrous duty to keep any decent woman from setting foot in that place and would much prefer to have her in Japan for a time.

Almost worded out now, as I took all of Godfrey’s money from him this morning and wrote till I was blue in the fingertips.

So until next time,


Unadmonishedly smiling,


Josh.